By this time next year, you may be doing business with some of your courthouse public officials at the Town and Country Shopping Center location.
The county commission has not yet made it official, but County Mayor Mike Foster says it appears more likely that at least four of the offices in the courthouse will be moving, possibly by next spring. "I would think we are looking at probably sometime next spring. The way it looks, it would probably be Trustee, Register of Deeds, County Clerk, and Property Assessor. At least those offices. There's still some discussion about the election commission and my office (County Mayor). One of those two offices probably will go (to the shopping center). That way the rest of the courthouse will be opened up for space that everybody needs for the courts and some storage too."
One of the officials, probably the county clerk, is expected to have his own drive through window at the shopping center location to better serve the public.
J & S Construction is currently conducting a "Job Summary" at the old shopping center complex but so far no company has been selected by the county commission to do the actual renovation construction, although several architects have submitted plans for the design and layout of the facility.
Foster says the final plans will include space for a variety of purposes. "We've got five architects that have submitted plans. They have submitted what they have done for free and they (county commission) will pick whoever they want for that. The layout we're doing is preliminary just to make sure everything fits in to account for space. In it (layout) right now is an auditorium with a stage to seat about 250 people, which could be used for performing arts, meetings or whatever. There's an exercise weight room, a game room, and for lack of a better word there's like a semi-gymnasium type area of about 4,500 square feet that could be used for kids to do whatever they want to do. It would probably have a basketball goal and things for recreation but it won't be like a full gym. The senior citizens center would be next to that (gym) and next to a museum. There's capacity for about six rooms for Motlow State Community College to have night classes and there will be a center in there for computer literacy to help industries and where, if they're having training, they can come over there and use those. We'll also have the two rental spaces and the county (public officials) offices. They're all (offices) pretty much the same size and we'll have an archives storage area in there of about 1,600 to 1,700 square feet. Right now, the plans are to have a drive through window on the south end there which will be part of where the Pizza Inn was. There's also a space in the back at one of the loading docks for the Second Harvest Food Bank that hopefully the churches are going to see to like the Methodist Church here does. They have a really good ministry through the Second Harvest Food Bank and we want to give them that space in there to continue that. All the churches contribute but the Methodist church here initiated it. They do have a lot of input from other churches and organizations. These are things that are still in the plans as of today. It's just a matter of getting them all situated and laid out to where they all fit in. We're trying to make sure that the space is there to do all these things."
Once J & H Construction completes it's "Job Summary" then bids can be prepared and let for the renovation/ construction work. Foster says he is hopeful that bids can be let by late summer or early fall. Foster adds that the actual construction costs are unknown right now but the county is applying for as many grants as possible to help fund it. "We have applied for a Rural Development grant for the recreation part for $200,000 and we're applying for another $200,000 parks and recreation grant. We're trying to work those in there. We've already received $15,000 for the aging. We're trying to get as many grants as possible."
"We meet with J & S Construction each Thursday to go over what they've done for that week. They are evaluating the roof system. We already had some roofing companies to do that and some engineer companies to do other things on a smaller scale. But they (J & S) are updating the roof situation and checking all the electrical. They're running cameras up the sewer lines and checking the sprinkler systems. Its sort of a summary of what we've got and they're making a proposal of what we should do. Then invitations will be issued for companies and individuals to bid on those specific things."
"It depends upon how quickly we can do it, but from what I'm hearing and what I'm thinking, maybe the roof (project) will be done in one section (bid letting), then the front might be done in another section, and then the building would be let in maybe three sections so that more people could have a chance to bid on it. We would like to have local bidders if we can because it would create some local jobs. That's the way we'll try to do that. Hopefully it will turn out that way. It just depends upon the overall scope of everything because some of the bigger companies, if they did the entire thing, would be the only ones capable of doing it. So we're hoping we'll be letting in three or four sections."
"And then we've got to do the central air and heat zoning and figure out exactly what use is going to be put to that particular central air and heat unit that's on top. We know three of the units are not good out there but we think the other nine units are good according to the engineers. So once we get the zoning to fit with the layout of the property, then we'll get that done and then get the roof done and then start doing the layouts. The interior will include some sheet rock walls, drop ceilings, and it'll either be tile floors or some of it could be carpet that is installed in squares, which if (a certain section) is stained, you can pop it out and put another one in. It (facility) won't be extravagant but it will be functional and durable and built for low maintenance."
Foster says he also learned last week that the county has received another grant to help develop the new farmer's market location on the north side of the shopping center facing East Bryant Street and work on that should be completed by September. "We got the environmentals done on it about six weeks ago and we were waiting to hear from another grant. We applied for a USDA Rural Development Grant for $50,000 which we got. We also applied for a Tennessee Department of Agriculture Enhancement Grant and we found out Wednesday that we got it, which is for $30,000. That's why we were waiting (to do the project). But we've got the contracts and they have been signed and sent back in. We also did a little modification to the building and if everything goes well, we'll be advertising that bid probably next week. Construction on that should begin right away. According to our contracts and grants we have to have that done by September. We have done the environmentals and the traffic flow pattern. It will have a bathroom, a wash area, refrigerated area with storage, a display area, tables, and it'll all be handicapped accessible."
Last October, the county commission voted to purchase the 62,000 square foot Town and Country Shopping Center complex. The property covers 5.21 acres and includes a large paved parking lot.
The purchase price for the shopping center was approximately $750,000.